China remained Australia's leading tourism market, with the number of visitors from the country growing 2.9 percent to 1.3 million. Handout.

The number of international visitors to Australia hit 8.5 million in the 12 months to March 2019, with China being the biggest source of visitors, data released Wednesday revealed.

According to a report in China Daily, Tourism Research Australia released its latest International Visitor Survey, revealing that the total number of visitors rose 3 percent from the previous year while the amount they spent rose 5 percent to $44.3 billion Australian dollars (US$30.4 billion).

China remained Australia’s leading tourism market, with the number of visitors from the country growing 2.9 percent to 1.3 million.

The amount spent by Chinese visitors grew by 10 percent to 12 billion Australian dollars (US$8.2 billion), representing an additional $1.1 billion Australian dollars (US$757 million) poured into Australia’s economy.

Meanwhile, visitor numbers from India grew by 14.6 percent to 342,694 after a 17 percent jump between 2017 and 2018, the report said.

More than 50 percent of Indian visitors travelled to Australia to visit friends and family compared to 30 percent of all international visitors. Indians also stayed in Australia for an average of 61 nights, double the overall average, but 57 percent of those were spent with friends or family.

Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Simon Birmingham said that the data was proof that a marketing campaign targeting travellers in Asia was working.

“Whilst some markets are showing maturity or the importance of our focus on high-value travellers, in others we’re starting to see stronger growth,” Birmingham told the Australian Financial Review.

“With its emerging middle class, proximity to Australia, improving air access and increasingly competitive airfares, there is definitely further opportunity to expand south and southeast Asia’s tourism potential.”

Visitors from France, Canada and the Netherlands all rose by more than 5 percent but those from Britain fell 4 percent, the report said.

Professor Brian King from Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s School of Hotel and Tourism Management, said he believed the numerous direct flight routes established between Australia and major provincial capitals in China would mean many first-time tourists would still pick Australia for travel.

“Though the growth of the Chinese economy is decelerating — and some of this is a consequence of the trade war — the demand among Chinese consumers for services continues to grow fast, including for outbound tourism,” he told

“So I anticipate that (China’s outbound tourism sector) will be growing faster than the overall Chinese economy.”

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